FRAMING AND REFRAMING MESSAGING TIPS James P. Tenbusch, Ph.D.
Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world: the way we reason and what counts as common sense.
Reframing is changing the way the public sees the world.
New language is required for new frames.
Thinking differently requires speaking differently.
When we negate a frame, we evoke the frame.
Do not use their language. Their language picks out a frame—and it won't be the frame you want.
Framing is about getting language that fits your worldview. It is not just language. Ideas are primary and language carries those ideas, evokes those ideas.
To be accepted, the truth must fit people's frames. If the facts do not fit a frame, the frame stays and the facts bounce off.
Concepts are not things that can be changed just by someone telling us a fact.
People do not necessarily vote in their self-interest. They vote their identity. They vote their values. They vote for who they identify with.
In framing you need to activate your worldview and moral system in their political decisions. You do that by talking to people using frames based on your worldview.
Ideas come first.
When you think you just lack words, what you really lack are ideas. Ideas come in the form of frames. When the frames are there, the words come readily.
If you keep their language and their framing and just argue against it, you lose because you are reinforcing their frame.
The truth alone will not set you free.
You need to frame the truths effectively from your perspective.
Be proactive, not reactive. Play offense, not defense. Practice reframing, every day, on every issue. Don't just say what you believe. Use your frames, not their frames. Use them because they fit the values you believe in.
Repeat over and over phrases that evoke their frames and define issues their way. Such repetition makes their language normal, everyday language and their frames normal, everyday ways to think about issues.
When the facts don't fit the frames, the frames are kept and the facts ignored.
Framing matters. Frames once entrenched are hard to dispel.
Think about being a "cognitive activist"
Spin is the manipulative use of a frame. It puts an innocent frame on an embarrassing occurrence so that it sounds normal or good.
Propaganda is an attempt to get the public to adopt a frame that is not true and is known not to be true, for the purpose of gaining or maintaining political control.
Reframing is not just about words and language. Reframing is about ideas. The ideas have to be in place in people's brains before the sound bite can make any sense.
Remember, don't just negate the other person's claims; reframe. The facts unframed will not set you free.
Frames trump facts. Frames will stay and the facts will bounce off. Always reframe.
Once your frame is accepted into the discourse, everything you say is just common sense. Why? Because that's what common sense is: reasoning within a commonplace, accepted frame.
Always reframe the question to fit your values and your frames. This may make you uncomfortable, since normal discourse styles require you to directly answer questions posed. That is a trap. Practice changing frames.
Be sincere. Use frames you really believe in, based on values you really hold.
Tell a story. Find stories where your frame is built into the story. Build up a stock of effective stories.
Always start with values, preferably values all Americans share like security, prosperity, opportunity, freedom, and so on. Pick the values most relevant to the frame you want to shift to. Try to win the argument at the values level. Pick a frame where your position exemplifies a value everyone holds—like fairness.
It's not what you say, it's what people hear.
The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself right into your listener's shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart.
Not only explain but also motivate. They cause you to think as well as act. They trigger emotion as well as understanding.
The act of speaking is not a conquest, but a surrender.
Communicate your principles using the simplest most straightforward language possible.
Short words are the best, and the old words best of all."
Use language that gets heads nodding. Use words that pop, the kinds of words and phrases you only have to hear once before they burn themselves into your mind and drive you to action.
Small beats large, short beats long, and plain beats complex. And sometimes a visual beats them all.
Remember, you may be making yourself sick by saying the same exact same thing for the umpteenth time, but many in your audience will be hearing it for the first time.
A string of words that have the same first letter, the same sound, or the same syllabic cadence is more memorable than a random collection of sounds.
Personalize and humanize the message to trigger an emotional remembrance.
People will forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
You have to give people the "why" of a message before you tell them the "therefore" and the "so that."
If it doesn't matter to the intended audience, it won't be heard
The target audience must see individual, personal meaning and value in your words.
Never lose sight of whom you are talking to—and who is listening.
How your words are understood is strongly influenced by the experiences and biases of the listener
Ask questions more than you "talk"
Positioning an idea doesn't merely "frame" it so that it carries a certain meaning; it actually defines the terms of the debate itself.
Popular perception can overwhelm truth and accuracy in establishing a communication connection.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Be the message rather than narrating it
Never repeat a criticism as part of your rebuttal.
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